Huge Hackathon In West Africa Hopes To Produce The Next Wave Of Startups

The most talented and ambitious entrepreneurs in West Africa are being encouraged to join a new hackathon program this month in Accra, Ghana, which hopes to spin out a wave of new tech startups geared to African needs.

The Hack for Big Choices is a non-profit which hopes to impact the fast-developing West African economies by helping to create what it calls ‘sustainable start-ups’. Led by entrepreneur Aurora Chisté, the project has come at a pivotal time for the region.

According to many statistics, Africa has the fastest growing middle class in the world, and has 6 out of 10 of the fastest growing economies. Ghana, where the hackathon is being held, has averaged over 6% annual growth over the past six years and hit 14% in 2011. Economic growth is predicted to be up 8% in 2015. Overall, West Africa has 340 million people, and according to ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), if sub-Saharan Africa could replicate Asia’s growth it would add $500 billion to its economies every year for the next 30 years.

But a lack of cohesion could mean this growth would be squandered, especially if African entrepreneurs are not encouraged to get together.

Incredibly there is very little ‘hackathon’ culture in the region, and as we all know from TechCrunch events, it’s hackathons which often produce the best startups.

Thus, the Hack for Big Choices hackathon will reach a climax over February 20-22nd.

Held at Hub Accra, the leading Coworking space in Ghana, the event is also working with the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology, which TechCrunch covered a couple of years ago.

Chisté says the project is necessary “because Africa’s population will grow more rapidly, further constraining efforts to address poverty, create jobs, and protect the environment.” She hopes the event will adopt the best technologies to address local needs and encourage emerging entrepreneurs.

We spoke to her in a Skype video, published above. (Our apologies for the sound quality).